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On the last track we discussed grief and explaining separation. The four types of separation we discussed on the last track are parental rejection, incarceration, mental illness, and alcohol and drug abuse.
On this track we will discuss displacement reactions. Two topics regarding displacement reactions that we will discuss are why displacement reactions occur and identifying patterns and triggers of displacement reaction. We will also discuss the I Think, I Feel, I Want technique, used as an alternative to a displacement reaction. As you listen to this track, you might consider the application of the ideas and decide to play this track in an individual or group session.
Two Topics Regarding Displacement
Topic #1 - Why Displacement Reactions Occur
When Jason began to act out in school, he was asked to move to a small adjoining time-out area that was regularly used as part of the behavior modification program in the class. Unlike the other children, however, being asked to sit in time out set Jason off. He would explode in a rage. Jason’s therapist, a colleague of mine, stated that she spoke with Jason’s teacher regarding the grieving child’s displacement reaction. Jason’s teacher agreed to experiment with a different kind of time-out for Jason. Jason’s foster parents were asked to buy him a bath towel, letting him pick the color.
Jason’s foster parents ran it through the wash a couple times so it would smell like home, cuddled him in it a few times over the weekend, and then sent it along to school with him. Jason and his teacher found a safe place for him to keep his towel, and when he needed a time out, Jason was told to sit with it at his teacher’s side. Jason was able to respond cooperatively to this alternative to time out. Jason still displayed anger, but having a physical reminder of home and the knowledge that his teacher wouldn’t send him away helped Jason to cope with his displacement reaction.
Think of your Jason. Could a reminder of home help your grieving client to cope with his or her displacement reaction?
Topic #2 - Identifying Patterns and Triggers of Displacement Reaction
Do you agree that if the patterns or triggers that lead to the displacement reaction can be identified it becomes more possible to find ways to discourage negative behavior?
For example, Caitlin, age 11, grieved the death of her father shortly after her parent’s divorce. Caitlin not only acted negatively when she felt displaced, but also when she needed to enter or rejoin a social situation. Caitlin’s teacher stated to me, “I’ve watched her over and over on the playground pulling that ‘poor me, I’ve hurt myself” routine. Caitlin will stand on the sidelines watching the others play. You can watch her get frustrated. Then she loses control, and pushes someone or pretends to trip and get hurt herself.”
While working through Caitlin’s grief, I found that it was productive to spend time with her focusing on her assertiveness in order to give her an alternative to her otherwise common displacement reaction. Would you agree that helping Caitlin know how to find a place for herself and say what she wants could help her to overcome her displacement reaction? If the grieving child that you are treating is using a displacement reaction, consider using the following technique to help the child implement assertiveness.
Technique: I Think, I Feel, I Want
Caitlin devised two assertive statements that she could use next time she wanted to play with the other children. “Can I play, too?” and “It’s my turn.” Caitlin’s teacher later stated to me that even though Caitlin still showed a displacement reaction sometimes, Caitlin was starting to become more assertive.
Would you agree that this assertiveness could help start Caitlin’s positive work through her grief? Are you treating a grieving child who may need to work through other problems such as a displacement reaction before grief processing work can begin? If so, consider playing this track or relating these case studies to your client.
On this track we have discussed displacement reactions. Two topics regarding displacement reactions that we discussed are why displacement reactions occur and identifying patterns and triggers of displacement reaction. We also discussed the I Think, I Feel, I Want technique.
On the next track we will discuss delayed grief work. We will discuss how grief gets delayed and techniques for delayed grief work. Three techniques we will discuss are talking, cemetery visits, and drawing.
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